OXNARD, Calif. -- Following the Sunday morning walkthrough practice, Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware made a reference to a rap song by former boxing champion Roy Jones Jr.
The song is called "Ya'll Must Have Forgot" and is in reference to how some fans and media members forgot how great Jones was in the mid-2000s. Jones, in his prime, was considered, pound-for-pound, the best fighter in the sport.
Ware wanted to remind everyone he's still, pound-for-pound, one of the best defensive players, if not the best defensive player, in the NFL.
"Playing at least eight games when you're not totally healthy, your mind has to take over and your body is not doing what your mind is telling you to do," Ware said. "But now, being able to do everything, go out and play and feel whole again, it feels good again. Just like [that] Roy Jones Jr. song was, 'Ya'll must've forgot,' I'm just trying to prove a point."
Ware finished the 2012 season with 11.5 sacks, his fewest since 2009. He also had a career-low 56 tackles. Ware battled through shoulder and elbow injuries the last two months of the season. The injuries were so bad that in the regular-season finale at Washington, Ware had zero sacks, one tackle and offered a "no comment" Sunday when asked about the game.
In the offseason, Ware underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He avoided surgery for a hyperextended elbow, which kept popping out. He was limited in offseason workouts to individual drills. When the Cowboys changed defensive coordinators, Ware changed positions, moving from outside linebacker to defensive end.
Ware has worked with at least six different defensive coordinators.
"I think it's helped me out a little bit," Ware said. "I figure out how to be a chameleon. I think that's how I have to be when I'm playing. Figuring out where I fit at, how I slip and dive through guys to make plays, having different coaches. You learn a lot from different coaches, so you bring that in to get your toolbox ready for the season."
Ware should still be considered one of the top defensive players in the NFL.
He commands double-teams from opposing teams, and, while his responsibilities should get lighter -- he jokes he'll rush 94 percent of the time, his jersey number -- the opportunity to make plays should increase because he could see more one-on-one battles in the new 4-3.
Ware believes the switch from outside linebacker to end will be smooth.
"A little bit easier transition," he said. "You're going from defensive end to linebacker so you have to drop back a little bit more, and you have a little bit more formations you have to worry about 'cause you have to drop. Now, you're just putting your hand down in the dirt and reading formations. You're pass-rushing, actually, 94 percent of the time."
Ware rushed almost every down for Rob Ryan last season. Toward the end of the season, you could tell things were different. He still had that quick first move when the ball was snapped, but he didn't have the power necessary to push past tackles. His right arm was hurting. Ware finished with just 1.5 sacks the last four weeks of the season and none the last two weeks.
He was a different man.
He's healthier now and expects to be full go for Sunday afternoon's first full, padded practice. He won't need a brace for the shoulder, and, for a change he's pain-free.
Maybe that's why Ware wants everybody to remember what type of player he was. Maybe Ware wants people to remember he did play hurt last season.
"Some people don’t see that, 'cause when you’re out there playing you're out there playing," Ware said. "Now, when you're feeling whole, sometimes you're out there proving a point where you stand."